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Frank Rich: Think I’m wrong? That I don’t have it all figured out? Then you’re a racist

March 29, 2010 Leave a comment

Pretty shocking that the threatening emails to and shooting-up of Eric Cantor’s office wasn’t mentioned in Frank Rich’s list of awful things people have done in response to this health-care bill. The NYT‘s editorial board is extremely demanding of those submitting guest op-eds, but apparently their own columnists get free reign over what they’ll mention — and conveniently leave out. Yeah, that inconsequential fact that the single most violent and threatening act perpetrated after the bill’s passage was against a Republican? Not even a passing mention was required of Rich. But this is kids’ stuff compared to my — to his — larger point.

Here’s the thing. A major columnist (probably better put: party hack) has boiled down opposition to this bill as nothing more/less than racism/bigotry, which you’ve seen some on the left do lately, sure, but which is going to get a lot worse as the media and Democrat politicians talk about this over the next year. This is the narrative they’ve been building since long before they passed the bill. And that makes it gut-check time for conservatives. Soon enough, all people will have to ask us, in order to determine whether or not we’re white supremacists, is whether we opposed Obamacare. How disgusting.

I can’t help but think this won’t work out for Dems in the long run, though. David Paul Kuhn wrote recently about how Obama’s biggest loss, demographically, since the election is white men. They’re tired of being vilified, held responsible for problems faced by people they’ve never met — and, keep in mind, these are liberal, or at least not conservative, white men who actually voted once for Obama and thus aren’t subject to charges of racism, according to the left’s definition of it (a racist, according to the left, is anyone who opposes any policy offered by the president, specifically, and policies offered by Democrats, generally).

At some point, even white folks on the left will likely soon wake up and decide, finally, that they’re tired of being held responsible for every ill that befalls minorities and being told that their opposition to a bad policy fix must mean they’re big fans of Nascar and a good country lynching. The problem is, regardless of whether whites flee en masse from the Democratic Party, Rich’s final point — about the shift of America’s demographics — might mean it won’t much matter, since very soon whites will be outnumbered by a coalition of minorities who’ve been told by the party they support that everything that’s wrong with society is the white man’s fault.

It’ll be interesting to see how, if it can be done at all, Dems will try to spin themselves out of their racism narrative once whites are eventually, technically, the minorities in this country.

Democrats: symbolism over substance

March 23, 2010 Leave a comment

Who cares if this bill will bankrupt our nation, force cuts in care, lead to higher taxes on society’s producers, lower health-care quality for everyone, and create a nation of dependents? Not the Post‘s Eugene Robinson. He can’t be bothered with whether or not the plan will actually work; what matters is how well he means.

Symbolism over substance — a phrase never described liberal policy better. What matters is that liberals like Robinson can feel good about themselves. But don’t take my word for it; don’t listen to some conservative like me who presumes, in most cases, to know what liberals are thinking. No, Ol’ Eugene said so himself in his column (aptly titled: “The health-care bill: a glorious mess”) this morning:

Even when the “fixes” that have to be approved by the Senate are made, the health-care bill will still be something of a mess. But it’s a glorious mess, because it enshrines the principle that all Americans have the right to health care — an extraordinary achievement that will make this a better nation.

A trillion-dollar experiment with other people’s money, all so elites like Eugene can pat themselves on the back. Couldn’t we have agreed that this principle — “that all Americans have the right to health care” — might be worth enshrining, but that if we all decide such is the case, we ought to make sure we get the policy right? Isn’t that a principle worth enshrining, too?

Pelosi excited about bill’s “momentum”

March 19, 2010 Leave a comment

I’m not joking. That title is for real. See for yourself:

And Speaker Nancy Pelosi gave her strongest comments of the week on Friday, saying “I’m very excited about the momentum building around this bill. We’re one day closer to passing this legislation.”

A year after this started. Three bills. The possibility of passing a bill without actually passing it. The past week spent twisting arms to eek out another dozen votes so this thing can pass by the skin of its razor-sharp teeth. And the Speaker thinks we’re all dumb enough to believe there’s “momentum building around this bill.” Crimony. That kind of panglossian arrogance, it’s no wonder she actually thinks this bill is a good idea and that her ranks will fare better in November for having passed it.

Categories: Health Care, Nancy Pelosi

Kucinich is in: because he’ll get single-payer soon enough anyway

March 17, 2010 Leave a comment

It’s hard to imagine that Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) — the most liberal member of the House, at least on the issue of health care — was persuaded to vote for the health-care bill by anything more or less than the fundamental economic and systemic reality it represents: a vote for it is to flick the domino, to set off a chain of events that will ultimately lead to the single-payer vision Kucinich clings to.

He told the Wall Street Journal that the president’s visit “underscored the urgency of this vote,” and that the president committed “to continue to work with me on the broad concerns that I have.”

It’s hard to imagine that the president didn’t convey to Mr. Kucinich that we’ll get there. “Look, Dennis,” he may have said, “let me be clear. This is just a big step toward the goal you and I both share. But failure to pass this bill leaves us where we are today — with nothing, with a broken health-care system. Let me be clear again. Wouldn’t you rather vote for a bill that slowly but surely eats at the private health-care system so that a move toward universal, government-run care, by default, becomes our only remaining option? I would. Vote with me. Thanks for letting me be clear.”

Matter of fact, Kucinich told the Journal, this bill is “a defining moment for whether or not we’ll have any opportunity to move off square one on health care.” This is square one? Wait, what? I thought this was fundamental reform? I thought this was the reform we’ve been waiting for? That we don’t have time for small fixes? If it’s square one, then what’s square two? Great question. Almost inevitably: the shift of all 305 million Americans — who soon, if this bill passes, won’t be able to afford private insurance — into a Medicaid-for-all program.

***

I’m probably making a mountain of this molehill, but the article says Kucinich consulted the president, Pelosi, his wife, and close friends, before deciding ultimately to vote for this bill. Good politicians — or at least, politicians who have to worry about their jobs — at least pretend they consulted or listened to their constituents. This list of confidantes sounds more like that of a retiring NBA player or a repentant Tiger Woods — people whose careers are their own — and not that of an elected official who has to answer to the people he didn’t even think to mention when justifying his decision. Like I said, probably a minor quibble, but there it is.

Joe Conason vs. Joe Conason: “death panels” a GOP “distraction,” but in the end he admits the GOP is right

March 17, 2010 1 comment

Salon‘s Joe Conason says the GOP’s “fundamental strategy” during the health-care debate has been, “From the beginning, subtraction by distraction — whether framed as ‘death panels’ or ‘backroom deals.'” The best part of that line — even better than the clever “subtraction by distraction” — is the quotation marks around backroom deals, as if, you know, they weren’t really backroom deals; that’s just what Republicans are calling them. Crimony. If meeting in secret with Sen. Nelson until you come out with a deal that benefits only his state — paid for by taxpayers in the other 49 — is not a backroom deal, then, Mr. Conason, what, in your book, is enough of a backroom deal to merit dropping the sarcastic or mocking quotation marks?

And finally, the “death panels.” Again, those quotation marks. Death panels don’t exist, apparently, if the sarcastic/mocking punctuation is to be believed — except wait a minute, just long enough for Mr. Conason to sorta reverse himself:

The proper reply to “death panels” was that they already exist in the corporate bureaucracy of the insurance companies — and in the lobbying firms where reform that would save tens of thousands of lives annually has been killed every time.

I love this response. Democrats say care is denied too often to too many people, and when we respond that their solution will also mean denied care, they respond that health care is already rationed in today’s system. That’s what you call a dog chasing his tail. And now when you say their solution will create a death panel, the response is that that death panels already exist. Ergo, the Democratic solution to two problems of today’ system is to make them a part of the the system they propose. Wait. What?

Their illogic aside, let’s get something straight: death panels do not — I repeat, do not — already exist in the corporate bureaucracy of the insurance companies. Here’s why: there’s a huge difference between, on the one hand, a government “death panel” in a single-payer, universal-care system like Medicare — a system in which you literally have no other health-care options — in which you’re told by a “death panel” that you cannot obtain a procedure or medication and, on the other hand, an insurance company’s corporate bureaucracy telling you it’s not going to pay for a procedure or medication that you’re still free to get by paying for it yourself.

Sure, it’s awful to be told that a policy you’ve been paying into for who knows how long won’t cover a procedure, but the fact remains that today you’re free to explore other financing options. In a system run by the government, you’re not; if the bureaucrat at the federal call center in Washington says it won’t pay for a procedure, they’re not saying you can pay for it yourself. They’re saying you can’t have the procedure done. Period. That, my friend, is a death panel. And yes, this scenario rightly scares people — that kind of “””death panel””” (I’ll be bested by no man at sarcastic quotatering!) should scare people.

If reconciliation works, reconcile yourselves to the idea of single-payer

March 16, 2010 Leave a comment

I’ve said it at least several dozen times a month since last spring or so, when the Senate began considering the Kennedy bill in that body’s health committee: I get it. We all get it. The health-care system needs to be fixed. On that much we agree. But Democrats are either lying to themselves or to us if they think the system they are hell-bent on establishing in its place won’t completely bankrupt our system, just as a similar system is doing in Massachusetts.

But of course, that’s not the point and never has been. Lowering costs and strengthening the health-care system’s viability not only aren’t the goal; they’re precisely what Democrats are doing their damndest to avoid. They’ve set this steam-engine-of-a-health-care system up on a track that leads straight off a cliff so they can replace it with an entirely new train in another decade or so. Once the current system is dead — and it surely will die soon, if their plan passes — there’ll be another health-care crisis within the decade that demands even more government intervention. And they know this perfectly well.

I’m not saying anything that hasn’t been said before. It bears repeating, though, because there are still millions of Americans for whom it hasn’t quite sunk in that this is where Democrats are taking us with laser-like focus. It’s no accident. It’s not because they don’t understand what they’re doing. They know exactly what they’re doing.

Others still mistakenly think that this plan represents an improvement of the current system, rather than an exacerbation of its weaknesses — brought about with a much grander scheme in mind. Still others might think Democrats don’t understand how Massachusetts serves as a model. Perhaps they’re interpreting the numbers differently. Or maybe Republicans are wrong — Massachusetts is not coming to Washington.

But Democrats understand. They know what the numbers mean, and they’re loving it. Oh, boy, are they ever.

It’s not that Democrats refuse to see the lesson in Massachusetts. To the contrary, they’re salivating over it. Republicans may have got their 41st senator from Massachusetts, but Democrats will get the state’s health care system. And that’s a great trade for them, because the next stop is single-payer. We simply have to reconcile ourselves to that.

Cadell and Schoen: Dems are delusional

March 12, 2010 Leave a comment

Hardcore Democrats’ delusion when it comes to health-care polling really is perplexing and its manifestation during the health-care debate of 2009-10 will likely make its way into political-science, political-psychology — dare I suggest mental-disorder? — textbooks soon.

To support this bill, despite the polling data on it, is one thing — perhaps even admirable in a very narrow way. To support it because of the polling — hanging your hat on the finding that just about everyone thinks the system needs to be fixed — is downright inexplicable. A couple Democrat greybeards are trying to talk them down from the ledge, but there’s little reason to believe the Three Stooges (Harry, Girly, and O) will listen.

The die-hard reformer’s argument goes like this: seventy percent of America says the system needs to be fixed. Ergo, 70 percent of America supports this fix. This logic applied in just about every other context, though, would make these very die-hards laugh, but somehow, in this context, their own paralogic makes perfect sense.

Let’s pick a couple different contexts.

Ask Robert Gibbs how he thinks teachers — probably 100 percent of whom would say our school system needs to be fixed — would react if we said, “Ergo, you must, therefore, support No Child Left Behind.” (Note: most teachers hate this law.) Gibbs, after smugly smiling and saying something snarky and rude would — rightly so — dismiss the assertion as ludicrous.

Pick any other topic. One more example before I wrap up:

Probably 98 percent of America (the other 2 percent resides in San Fransisco, Berkeley, and other such pockets of political and moral idiocy) would say the U.S. has a right to defend itself militarily against foreign enemies. You draw from that generalization the following: “Ergo, the Iraq War was a just war.” To do so would elicit more than a few LOLs or ROTFLMAOs from just about anyone capable of keeping up with simple logic.

But if that someone were Robert Gibbs, after picking himself up off the floor, he’d say, “But anyway, seriously”: this health-care bill must pass because 70 percent of Americans think the system is broken.

Why insurance?

March 10, 2010 Leave a comment

I know the answer to this, so I’m asking a rhetorical question here: When did health insurance become the standard? Someone decided it would be a good idea — yes, probably even profitable! — to offer insurance in the health-care market; others followed suit: more and more companies entered the market to offer insurance products, competition grew, plans varied, and all was well. Those who could afford it or otherwise thought it was a good idea bought policies. Some employers decided to offer it as a benefit.

Then the government stepped in during WWII and outlawed wage increases. Businesses started to offer health benefits as a way around these wage controls, because whether the pols in Washington who came up with the bright idea of wage controls understood it or not, businesses still had to attract and keep the best employees it could. Enter the employer-based health-insurance system. Nothing more or less than an accident of history — rather, an obvious consequence of wrongheaded liberal policy.

Now, for some unknown reason, this horribly nonsensical idea of providing health insurance that covers every visit and procedure — a model that makes NO economic sense whatsoever in the first place and which has been worsened by government mandates and hairy regulations — has become the standard.

Why?

I submit that the moral crime is not that 40 million-plus people are uninsured; it is instead that 250 million-plus people are. The insurance model itself is responsible for health care’s skyrocketing costs. Sure, medical technology is expensive and is a big reason for the increased cost, but it wasn’t cheap 10 years ago to build laptops, either, yet those prices continue to drop, despite the ever-more-powerful technology loaded up in those. And why are laptops (and DVD players, and plasma TVs, and so on) so much cheaper in real terms than 10 years ago?

You guessed it: First, because the government hasn’t established a right to Macbooks, so in order to increase market share, Apple has to find ways to reduce their prices. And second, there’s no insurance model — yet — that allows people to pay a cheap monthly premium for the right to buy a new laptop every other month for a nominal copay of $20. If such a thing existed and were widespread enough, you can bet Apple would jack up Macbook prices for those who lacked the insurance to make up for the loss it would take on all the insured who, divorced from the true cost of Macbooks, would abuse the system.

But it’s only a matter of time. You watch.

Soon enough, some Democrat will assert that no one should be forced to live without access to a computer and all of his Democratic buddies in Congress will agree. And from that day forward, the market will be distorted, twisted, and abused until it’s brought to its knees — just as the health-care industry has been — and soon enough, Macbooks, too, will be unaffordable to millions. And the government will step in again to fix the problem it created. (Think about it: what are the three major areas of the economy that have become unaffordable to most people? Higher education, homes, and medicine. What are the three areas of the economy in which the government has played an active role to attempt to lower prices for all? You guessed it: the same three. Interesting that it’s only made things worse? Or maddening. One of the two.)

And Democrats wouldn’t really care if Macbook prices rose as a result, let alone care to understand why. Because what would really matter — just as all that matters about health care — is that they’ll have locked up the laptop-user vote.

Good thing we’ve socialized firefighting: No more $500 charges EVERY time I’m pulled from a fire!

March 8, 2010 Leave a comment

A Kingsport, TN, resident wrote in to his local paper, the Kingsport News, saying, basically, that America is already a socialist nation, so what’s a bit more added on top? “[P]olice stations, fire stations, education systems, libraries, public parks and lots more” are run by the State, because we “would all be a little upset if every time we got saved from a burning building, we had a bill for $500.”

It’s a fantastic point. All those times I’ve been saved from a burning building? Man, the fire department would be my biggest expense! Good thing the city runs it and I pay taxes year-round, year in, year out, for an expense that otherwise would really break my bank.

In all seriousness, I get it — I’m not about to argue that we should privatize the fire and police departments. But in part why they work as “socialized” entities is that they’re so localized that they’re fairly easy to watch-guard, and in part because we don’t want firefighters and cops running credit checks or swiping cards before they decide whether to come to someone’s rescue. That said, a conservative economist could probably argue that fire and police departments might be run more efficiently and have better safety and protection records than those run by the government, but certainly funding and payment issues tip the scales toward letting them through as a taxpayer-funded service.

But the letter writer’s argument — and I’m not trying to take him on personally; I see him as a proxy for a very prevalent mindset out there — breaks down when you try to apply the local-police-department model — one run by locals and fairly accountable to its constituency — to a health-care system that would service 305 million people, all of the decisions about which would be made in Washington. The lack of accountability and the inability to obtain redress alone should scare the wits out of people. Think about it: something goes horribly wrong when the firefighter comes to save your home, you’ve got a pretty decent shot at exposing the problem. Local news focuses on, well, local news stories like yours. Local politicians have nothing to do but, well, focus on local voters like you. Your chances of changing local ordinances or at least of exposing a local failure are pretty high.

But if you’re one of 305 million customers and, say, you’re denied a certain treatment or left waiting too long on the advice hotline or told to go home when it turns out you had appendicitis, can you imagine being told to “take a number and wait till you’re called”? In a system that services — again — 305 million people?

There’s apples to oranges, and then there’s apples to neckties; this guy’s comparing the health benefits of a locally grown apple to those of a necktie made in China. The comparison between a “socialized” fire department and socialized health-care for a nation of 305 million is so impossible that I had to completely rewrite the metaphor that best describes the attempt’s lunacy.

UPDATED: Upon further reflection, is the local fire department truly socialized? I’d say it isn’t. In fact, isn’t socialism defined precisely by the nationalization of an industry far away from those it serves? Isn’t its weakness as a system the very fact that decisions are made so far away from those affected? So, no, your local fire department isn’t socialized, at least not any more so than your local homeowner’s association is socialism — it’s people who all live within a stone’s throw of one another saying, basically, that we all have the same needs and about the same risk, so let’s pool money together and keep tabs on how it’s spent. That is much harder to do at the national level. Plus, let’s not forget that the “socialization” of fire and police services doesn’t create an incentive for people to light their homes on fire or commit more crime quite the way socializing our health-care system would incentivize abusing it.

Categories: Health Care

Repeal is not a strategy; it’s pure fantasy

March 7, 2010 Leave a comment

If this thing passes, America as we know it is toast. Mark Steyn nails it again:

Republicans are good at keeping the seat warm. A bigtime GOP consultant was on TV, crowing that Republicans wanted the Dems to pass Obamacare because it’s so unpopular it will guarantee a GOP sweep in November.

OK, then what? You’ll roll it back – like you’ve rolled back all those other unsustainable entitlements premised on cobwebbed actuarial tables from 80 years ago? Like you’ve undone the federal Department of Education and of Energy and all the other nickel’n’dime novelties of even a universally reviled one-term loser like Jimmy Carter? Andrew McCarthy concluded a shrewd analysis of the political realities thus:

“Health care is a loser for the Left only if the Right has the steel to undo it. The Left is banking on an absence of steel. Why is that a bad bet?”

Indeed. Look at it from the Dems’ point of view. You pass Obamacare. You lose the 2010 election, which gives the GOP co-ownership of an awkward couple of years. And you come back in 2012 to find your health care apparatus is still in place, a fetid behemoth of toxic pustules oozing all over the basement, and, simply through the natural processes of government, already bigger and more expensive and more bureaucratic than it was when you passed it two years earlier. That’s a huge prize, and well worth a midterm timeout.

Reagan, in his 1964 “A Time for Choosing” speech, told a story about Cuban refugees and Reagan’s friends response to them: “Boy, aren’t we lucky?” meaning, to live in this great land. One of the Cubans responded, “You, lucky? We at least had somewhere to escape to.” Reagan said that single line encapsulated the American idea and the American reality — that it’s the last great hope, the last great bastion of freedom, and if it falls, we here in America would have nowhere to escape to.

I’m starting to think more and more that America has already fallen. Those commentators who wonder today if we’re about to fall are wondering too late. And Reagan was right: there really isn’t anywhere to go to escape totalitarianism — whether the soft kind that rules in Washington and fines or jails you if you decide you don’t want to fund other people’s poor life choices, or the hard kind, like in Iran or North Korea, that murders you for even daring to think there might be another way.